Wednesday, April 4, 2012


My copy of Flynn & Murray's Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology arrived. It's fat, at least, which makes its $105 price tag slightly less appalling. It's hard to say whether this is appropriate reading for the Triduum Sacrum, which starts tomorrow, but here I go. I will use this space to take notes, with a view to writing something more substantial later on. 

The ressourcement (return to sources) is often named as the more conservative movement in 20th C. theology, especially at and after Vatican II, it's opposite number being aggiornamento (updating, adapting "to today"). I'm not sure what "conservative" means here. Though this book may teach me otherwise, my impression to date is that ressourcement was a revolutionary movement, a return that involved jumping over the heritage that was actually handed down in favor of an historical reconstruction. 

Something tells me my reading of Nicolás Gómez Dávila (the Colombian philosopher) will be helpful in dealing with ressourcement and "historical" theology. History is a young discipline, and theologians are in love with it -- perhaps as they were once in love with philosophy? Gómez Dávila warns always against solutions and reforms: it is not he, the reactionary, who thinks a return to the past will solve things; instead the reactionary seeks shade from current madness, is skeptical but not hopeless, and waits on divine deliverance while he lives and works against fraud, intellectual dishonesty, and barbarism.

I like NGD more and more. 


  1. Fr. Bernard,

    I have a general question for you. How compatible is Gomez Davila, do you think, with Aquinas? From what I can tell, his historical musings compliment Aquinas, but I'm not sure some of his philosophy is a little too thoroughly skeptical, i.e., agnostic as to essences.

  2. I've read Gomez Davila only for a few months now, and I've read no secondary literature about him. But since you asked, my guess is that, though Gomez Davila's interests and philosophical foundations differ marked from those of Aquinas, his thought is more compatible than not with that of St Thomas. It's very tricky since St Thomas is pre-modern and NGD is weary of the modern, and their projects are so different. We could pit them against each other, and find points where they conflict, but would that be helpful? Again, I don't know NGD well enough to say. He muses, where Aquinas is scientific. Perhaps this is sheer prejudice or fantasy on my part, but I think both have so much truth that they must overlap and correspond somewhere! Maybe Gomez Davila's skeptical, reactionary mood would have been lightened had he met some great Thomist(s)? This is guesswork, though, since I don't have any feel for NGD's personality. What you say about his metaphysical skepticism sounds right. I suppose I don't know enough to form a definite reply.

  3. Good points about their different perspectives, Father. And, I definitely look for as many agreements as possible, since I would have to have to reject one.

    It's funny that you mention he should have met a great Thomist. He seems to have shared a very mid-20th century disdain for Thomism. I don't think he ever uses the term "manual theology," but that gives some of his attitude toward Thomism, I think. In one of his aphorisms somewhere, for example, he says that Thomists and Marxists could exchange personnel, the personalities are so similar. He was generally weary of belong to any single school and of philosophers who parroted each other.

    Unfortunately, there's next to no secondary literature to clear up issues like this.